Joe Russo on Life after Furthur, Why You Should Catch JRAD While You Can and How He's Ready for the Duo to Reunite (!!!!)

Joe Russo on Life after Furthur, Why You Should Catch JRAD While You Can and How He's Ready for the Duo to Reunite (!!!!)
Joe Russo: Photo by Headyshots.

Early on in their Deadicated bromance, the five members of Joe Russo's Almost Dead said they'd only keep the project going if it was fun.  I guess that means it  must be good times for them, as they've been successfully touring since January 2013  and only improving improvised communication and evolving their way through the sprawling, 500-song Grateful Dead catalog. 

Just please keep in mind that we are beyond lucky to have this happening right now.  It is a good time to be alive, Almost Dead, and goin to Hell in a Bucket all at the same time.  Heavy-handed rock beats that give way to metal-infused chord progressions, interpreted by some of the greatest musicians of our time, as once played by Jerry Garcia and the Warlocks are uniquely delivered amongst a sea of GD tribute acts. JRAD is just ...something different.   It's a deep-cuts, musical analysis of what would happen if Hell's Angels and Jon Fishman got Mountain Girl to carry a collective band-baby and birth them all into winter for all our joy and never ending splendor.  We are all at an extended mitzvah and should be forever grateful for it.  L'heim!

I have been pretty curious about what the future holds for Joe Russo's Almost Dead (Scott Metzger (guitar), Dave Dreiwitz (bass), Tommy Hamilton (guitar), Marco Benevento (keys), and Joe Russo (drums)).  I hope you've got some time to hear their story, because there's some good stuff in here.  The way I see it, getting to see them at North Coast Festival tonight at dusk as we offer jewels to the sunset (6:30- 7:45 at the 773-stage) is something to really get excited about.  And I guess on the flip-side, nothing can be worse than Altamont.  Too soon?  Without further adieu, the lovely Joe Russo. 

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Q: How do you feel you've changed as a band since your inception?  

A: Well, we learned a lot more songs (laughs).  I think as a group, we are now way more familiar with the material and can take the songs in even more directions than we could early on. I think it’s only getting better.  We have the luxury of pulling from an incredible and vast song book. With each new tune, we become re-inspired. 

 Q: As mentioned, at the start you said you'd only keep doing this project if it was fun.  Is it safe to say you're having a blast? 

A: We are! I think we’re still trying to ride that line though. 2015 was a big testing of the waters for us. We are going to book dates in 2016, but the goal is certainly to play less Almost Dead shows in the future so we can all focus on all of our other projects. Soooooooo……. get it while it’s hot.

We also still have a couple big things to announce for 2015, so keep yer peepers peeled!

Q: As far as big events on the horizon, any reason for choosing the Philly Fillmore for your NYE show?

A: Philly is a great city. We had the opportunity to stay close to home and help open an incredible new venue! Just worked out perfectly. Our last and only show in Philly was a blast too. Can’t wait to ring in 2016 in the City Of Brotherly Love.

Q: Have you still been in connection with any of the former members of Furthur post-breakup that you plan to link back up with musically?

A: I will always try to find ways of playing with Jeff Chimenti. He is one of the most talented, humble, incredible people I’ve ever had the chance to play with. The Dead world is damn lucky to have him. He was my lifeline in Furthur. If something wasn’t quite happening on stage, I could always just cue in to Jeff and hop off on a run with him for a while. His playing is always inspired and joyful. Any chance I get to play with Jeff is a great time. I need it to happen more often! Damn long distance relationships.

I’ve also been recording a lot with Weir for his new 'cowboy' record. It’s been such a great pleasure getting to work with Bob outside of Furthur. I think there were times I “had” to play a certain way in that (Furthur) setting, that rubbed up against Bob’s concept a bit and it’s been a really great experience getting to come in as the drummer/musician I’ve always been, outside of the Dead world, and feel like peers making new music. It’s been a very fun, comfortable environment in the studio and Bob is just an incredible man. It feels really good to make a deeper, post-Furthur, musical connection with him. That all said, I can’t wait for this record to come out! The songs are incredible and Josh Kaufman is producing the hell out of it! It’s going to be very special record and I’m truly honored to be a part of it. 

 Q: How can we expect a festival set to differ from prior Chicago shows that were indoors at the Concord Theater?

 A: Well, I think we’re doing a pretty short set (75 mins) so it’s gonna be all systems go from the get go. We’re all so psyched to play Chicago again. I’m sure it’ll be a party!  

Q: After being in Chicago for GD50, I've been wondering; what are your thoughts on Mickey Hart's "the beam" ??

A: It’s rad! I want one. Hell, I’ll take a copy of his whole rig. (laughs)

Q: Speaking of Mickey Hart, would you ever consider bringing in another drummer in homage to the Dead's traditional setup?  If you did, who would you invite?

A: I really would love to do that sometime. It can be really fun playing with another drummer, if you’re really on the same page musically. When it works….it’s incredible. There are three guys that always come to mind when I’m thinking about it:

 Ben Perowsky

Glenn Kotche

Andrew Barr

Q: Did you get a lot of positive feedback about the BR Duo cameo at Mountain Jam?  You played a few tracks as just the Duo, correct? What did you play?

A: Not quite BR Duo. It was more of an improv with two humans who used to be in a two person band called The Benevento/Russo Duo. Marco was doing a lil' workshop and texted me to come play. We just made stuff up for about 20-minutes on some terribly cheesy rental equipment.

It’s always fun any chance I get to play with my buddy Marco. It’s nice to check in on that space from time to time and see we still have that connection. I’m ready to do the Duo again. I think it would be great to do at least do one proper show with all the tunes and our mass of crazy gear. I miss those songs and I miss that style of performance. It was purely us.  

Q: How hilarious is Dave Dreiwitz? He seems like a totally hilarious person, but I guess you all do!  Any funny road stories about him or the other guys you wanna share?

A: Dave is the most magical man I’ve ever met. The only thing that trumps his incredible musical ability is his sweetness. Safe to say, he’s the greatest guy in the world!!!

Go see Joe Russo's Almost Dead tonight, Friday, September 4 at Union Park.  JRAD plays 6:30-6:45, but music goes from 3:15-10P.  Get tickets here.  Full schedule here.

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